Seven tips for going back to work after maternity leave

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Going back to work after maternity leave or maternity-related time off can be stressful. Crazy stressful. Your emotions are all out of whack, it’s confusing, and can be overwhelming.

Don’t freak out. Here are some tips to make life a bit easier to head out into the workforce and leave your little bundle in the care of a competent and fully-vetted caregiver:

Check references of your childcare provider. When looking for someone to look after the most important thing in your world, do take the time to check references before hiring. It will put your mind at ease and make a world of difference.

Go shopping and buy the stuff that fits you now. Yes, you’re going to lose that 20 or 50 lbs of baby weight – eventually – but that doesn’t mean you should put off buying new clothes until you do. It might take a little longer than you expected and you deserve to look and feel good in a few new outfits in the meantime. And until it happens, you will actually wear the hell out of anything you buy. So, if you can afford it, buy some new stuff.

Accept the exhaustion. If your experience is anything like mine you are going to be so tired you’re going to start wondering if you can die from lack of sleep (you can, but it’s really unlikely). There’s no point in sugarcoating it. Unless you have one of those magical sleeping children (I don’t), it’s going to be brutal. Just learn to live with it. Get as much sleep as you can, and remember that this too shall pass. And one day, when you’re an empty nester you’ll miss the chaos and exhaustion. Probably. Maybe… On the other hand, some people do have magical sleeping children and have no troubles with exhaustion by the time they go back to work. I wish you the good fortune of being one of them.

Outsource whatever you can. If you can afford to hire someone to clean your house, do it. If you can pay someone to walk your dog or rake your leaves or go shopping for you do it. If something is important enough to you to pay for it, and you can, then allow yourself to have it. Some of us can only afford occasional house cleaning but get it when we can. I have a friend who orders all her groceries delivered to her house.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. On the other hand, you don’t have to freak out if your house isn’t always as clean and tidy as it once was, or your family is eating tacos every night. I tend to beat myself up about that sort of thing. So, if you’re like me, don’t be. As long as there are no bugs, and nobody’s getting cholera or scurvy, who cares?

Try to negotiate work from home time. Many employers now offer the option to work remotely a day or two a week, and you might want to consider this. Yes, there are drawbacks, like the distractions of home and children, but the lack of commute is priceless. And once you cut out the lunch hour, you’ve got a much shorter and easier to handle workday on your hands.

Don’t feel guilty. Some moms feel guilty about working and not being home for every moment of their kids’ lives. You shouldn’t. Research suggests that children whose mom’s work turn out great. A 2015 study found that women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory positions, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time. Also, men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for their families.

This is good news!

After an initial period of freaking out, you’ll most likely start to enjoy being at work and then feel guilty about not wishing you were at home. There are many awesome things about being at work, particularly if you like what you do. You get to do something you love, and you get to drink coffee with grown-ups, and have conversations about grown-up stuff! What’s not to love?

So relax, and be the professional that you are. You got this, mom.

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